The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Men’s basketball loses to Memphis in a heartbreaker

Mens basketball loses to Memphis in a heartbreaker
Nick McCarthy

(Nick McCarthy)

Cool. Calm. Collected. Think 1980s-era Pat Riley. That is Memphis head coach John Calipari.

Flash to Saturday night inside Moody Coliseum. Panicked. Disoriented. The slicked-back hair disheveled from the nightmare playing out before him.

With three minutes to go in the game, he walked over to the media table by the Memphis bench and said, “If we lose this game, it’s going to be because of the referees.”

Calipari was on edge until the final horn, when a game-tying three pointer fell short for the Mustangs, giving the sixth ranked Tigers a 64-61 victory over SMU.

“They played us as well as anybody has played us all year, maybe other than Arizona or Tennessee,” Calipari said.

“We had nothing to lose. They had everything to lose,” said SMU center Donatas Rackauskas.

The game was the second subpar performance by Memphis in as many days and almost cost the team a perfect 16-0 Conference USA record and put into question a No. 1 seed for the Tigers in the NCAA tournament.

“We can’t play this way and advance,” Calipari said of the upcoming conference and NCAA tournaments.

A wild final minute almost gave SMU its first win over a ranked opponent at home since 1993.

Memphis led 61-58 when SMU’s Dez Willingham attempted to draw a foul just inside the three point arc. The ugly shot was quickly rebounded by the Tigers, and Memphis called timeout.

Willingham fouled Memphis’ Jeremy Hunt off the inbound pass with 22 seconds left. Hunt made one of his two shots, pushing the lead to 62-58.

SMU ran down the floor and Devon Pearson drained a fadeaway three pointer that left him sitting on the ground in front of SMU head coach Matt Doherty and had SMU down by one, 62-61, with 15 seconds left.

A foul by SMU’s Cameron Spencer sent Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts to the line. He missed both shots, but then got his own rebound and had a second chance. He did not fail, and connected on both of the free throws, putting Memphis ahead 64-61.

SMU’s Ike Ofoegbu launched a last-second three pointer that fell short and gave Memphis a hard-fought win.

SMU head coach Matt Doherty said he told his team after the game, “I couldn’t be more proud of you if you had won.”

Saturday was Senior Night, and SMU’s graduating seniors performed well. Ofoegbu, Pearson and Rackauskas were the team’s high scorers for the night with 21, 16 and 14 points, respectively. Afterward they said the only people who believed SMU could keep up with Memphis were the players in the Mustang locker room.

SMU got out to a fast start, going on a 14-0 run in the first 4:30 of the game. The Mustangs led 14-3 at the first media timeout and held a lead throughout most of the first half. Calipari subbed out four of his starters three minutes into the game. He said he had to do it so Memphis could stay in the game. The Tigers made their second field goal of the game at the 15:29 mark in the first half.

Memphis shot 37.5 percent for the game and 21.7 percent from the three-point line. SMU shot 39 percent for the game and 35 percent from the three-point line.

The statistic that got SMU in trouble was fouls. With players Derrick Roberts and Bamba Fall still out with injuries, Doherty essentially played a five man line-up of the three seniors, plus Willingham and Jon Killen.

Rackauskas fouled out of the game with 11 minutes to go in the second half. He said afterward it was frustrating to watch the remainder of the game from the bench, his role reduced to that of a cheerleader.

Killen also fouled out after trying to establish a charging foul. The referees called the foul on Killen, not the Memphis player, and that forced Doherty to play the final five minutes with freshman Cameron Spencer and reserve Paulius Ritter.

Willingham and Ofoegbu played all 40 minutes and Pearson played 38. No Memphis player was on the court more than 30 minutes, and the Tigers had a 10-man rotation.

The close game buoyed the confidence of Doherty and his team.

“If this doesn’t convince you that we can’t run the table in Memphis, I don’t know what can,” Doherty said of his team’s chances at the C-USA tournament.

SMU is seeded 11th for the tournament and will open play Wednesday against sixth-seed Southern Miss. The Mustangs lost by one to the Golden Eagles in the conference opener at Moody Coliseum Jan. 10.

Doherty said Roberts and Fall will be back for the conference tournament. Pearson said the team is ready to be healthy again and believes they can perform well in Memphis.

“We are going to be ready,” Ofoegbu said.

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